Coming to Terms

There is a month until the end of this term, and I could not be happier. The sooner it’s over, the better. It’s been a bitch.

I’ve read a lot about college and college life. My favorite YouTube channel/website is College Info Geek. I thought I was ready. I thought that, yeah, my first term was hard, but that was because it was new, that’s because I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought the second term should be much easier now that I knew what I was doing.

Truth is, the second term is its own demon. You won’t find that anywhere, and maybe that’s because most college stuff is written by people who went through it at a normal college age. It’s not usually written by people who are middle-age, single-parents, who have kids with a plethora of health issues. While I do not downplay the difficulties of the younger generations with college and work and friends and family, it’s not really the same.

Looking back at the last two terms, it reminds me of my experience in the NICU 16 years ago. (Yes, it has been that bad.) When a child is born and does exceedingly well when it was expected to, at best, be blue and needing resuscitation at birth, it has what is known as a “honeymoon period.” In those first 24 hours of life, the baby does well and the parents, who generally have no prior knowledge of NICU life, begin to think that this won’t be so bad after all.

Yeah, not so much. Less than 24 hours after birth, the child crashes and life goes to hell, just like you thought it would before the baby was born. The papers to save the life at all costs, or not, have to be signed, and then you just wait, often for the worst, and those happy hours when you thought you had dodged a bullet seem more like a sick joke played by nature.

My first term was a honeymoon period, my second term has been the life-or-death period. It took me a while to figure out why that second part is true. When I did, sometime around Spring Break, it was already too late to do anything about it. All I could do was my best to salvage what was left of the term and hope time would fly to the end of May.

The thing I couldn’t foresee about this term, the one that is never mentioned in any college literature or advice books or columns, is that in every term, you have to re-prove yourself…from scratch. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I knew I’d have new teachers, I’d need to figure them out, and I’d have a few adjustments to make that way. But I thought it was all just a matter of self-confidence, which I had. But it’s not.

Imagine, as an adult, that every four months you get all new bosses. All the old ones move on and they don’t even leave behind your last review so the new bosses don’t know what type of employee you are. And they don’t care, either. It’s just a job to them and you are just an employee. Now, imagine, as well, that almost all the people you’ve worked with are also gone and replaced by brand new people who also don’t know you. Recall, this is happening every four months. Except Summer, then you only have two months. At the end of each of these groups of months you will get a pay raise based on the performance you give your new bosses. Work prior to their tenure will not be taken into account. You will have to prove yourself again. And again. And again. From scratch. Every four months.

I get it now, but at the beginning, it was killer. Add to that all the problems going on with my kids and life outside school, and I was a total mess. I’ve spent more time this term wondering if this is really what I want that I did the first term. Everything has been a struggle. Every time I think I’ve got it under control, I get kicked in the face by a new, earth-shattering problem. I’m. Fucking. Done.

But next term I will be aware of these things. Next term I’ll know going in that it will take more than my newly acquired self-confidence to get through. Next term I’ll know that I’ll have to reboot relationships out of nothing.

As for the personal side of things, that is out of my control. I’d love to say that such knowledge makes it easier, but nothing involving your kids is easy. So I’ll just have to deal with those punches as they land.

This term, I look forward to finals with a joy I didn’t last term. Not because I necessarily think I’m more prepared than last term, but because it will signal the end to this chaos and I’ll be able to reboot. And sometimes a reboot isn’t such a bad thing.

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